Heavy industries in Australia’s regions could cut emissions by 80% and create a jobs bonanza, report says | Business

According to a report backed by some of the country’s biggest companies, the regional powerhouses of Australia’s industrial economy could slash their greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80% and become centers for multibillion-dollar investments in renewable energy.

Bringing down emissions from producing iron, steel, aluminum, chemicals, and liquefied natural gas is one of Australia’s most challenging efforts to reach net zero.

But the report from the Australian Industry Energy Transitions Initiative (ETI), a partnership between heavy industry and experts working on decarbonization, says the transition is possible using various available technologies and would bring a jobs bonanza.

By introducing a range of technologies along the supply chain, most of them proven and some already commercially available, the report says greenhouse gas emissions could be cut annually by 69.5m tonnes of CO2-equivalent – about 14% of Australia’s current total emissions.

Innes Willox, the chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, an ETI partner, said the steps industries needed to take to get to net zero were “increasingly clear”.


“While their costs and difficulties should not be underestimated, the current energy affordability crisis highlights the unsustainable cost of the status quo,” he said.

Much of the effort to decarbonize would come from the supply of new renewable energy at a massive scale.

Between 68.3 and 125.9 terawatt hours of additional renewable energy would be needed. In 2021, Australia generated 265 TWh of electricity, a quarter of that coming from renewable sources.

According to the report, building the renewable energy infrastructure, including energy storage, and creating a green hydrogen industry to serve the regions could generate between 178,000 and 372,000 jobs, with investments of between $50bn and $100bn.

Industry leaders among the 18 partners in ETI said a high level of collaboration and coordination would be needed to achieve the emissions cuts in the Pilbara, Hunter, Illawarra, and Gladstone regions.

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Anna Skarbek, the chief executive of Climateworks and one of the conveners of ETI, said: “This will require an unprecedented transformation of the energy system.”

Emissions in the regions accounted for 16% of Australia’s total carbon footprint, with the largest being the Pilbara in Western Australia – a center of iron ore and LNG production.

In the Pilbara, the report says much of the emissions come from the LNG industry.

Managing methane leaks, recovering lost heat, and electrifying the process of cooling gas down to liquid form could save about 13Mt of CO2e a year, but up to 7.6Mt would need to be captured and stored using carbon capture and storage technology – an approach which has struggled to be viable despite billions in investments.

The second highest emitting region, Gladstone in Queensland, could also save emissions on its LNG export industry. Large emissions cuts could also be made by electrifying processes in the aluminum industry, where other technologies were also developing to save energy.

Rio Tinto formally called for wind and solar energy projects before 2030 to power its aluminum operations in Queensland this month.

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Heavy industry in the New South Wales Hunter region includes ammonia production and aluminum smelting. Renewable energy and hydrogen from renewables could save up to 9Mt a year there.

Christopher Davis is a chief financial officer at Orica, a major supplier of explosives, chemicals, and services to the Hunter Valley, Gladstone, and Pilbara mining sectors. He said the company understood “the potential economic and environmental opportunities presented by regional decarbonization”.

The company had announced several decarbonization projects, and he sai, “we must continue to work collectively to ensure our industry, and Australia, remains competitive in a low-carbon economy”.

Other members of the ETI include Rio Tinto, Fortescue Metals, BP Australia, BlueScope Steel, and the government’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation. The government’s Australian Renewable Energy Agency part-funded the report.

The ETI, run by Climateworks and the consultancy Climate-KIC, worked on the report for two years with its industry partners, CSIRO, BloombergNEF, and the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Simon McKeon, the chair of ETI and chancellor of Monash University, said Australia could stay competitive in a decarbonizing global economy.

“But this will require coordinated efforts across industry, governments, and communities and the finance and energy sectors,” he said.

“It will also need the alignment of policy, regulations, and programs to create clear goals and investment confidence.”

The Guardian has approached the energy minister, Chris Bowen, for comment.

Bella E. McMahon
I am a freelance writer who started blogging in college. I am fascinated by human nature, politics, culture, technology, and pop culture. In addition to my writing, I enjoy exploring new places, trying out new things, and engaging in conversations with new people. Some of my favorite hobbies are reading, playing music, making crafts, writing, traveling, and spending time with my family.